Posts Tagged Horizon

Open letter to Greg Clark on Hinkley

Posted by Stephen Tindale on July 29th, 2016

Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

29 July 2016

Dear Greg

Congratulations on your appointment to run BEIS. I welcome the creation of the new department (see And it is great to have you back working on energy and climate change.

I also welcome your decision to review the Hinkley Point C proposal, following yesterday’s Final Investment Decision by EDF. The UK needs new nuclear power stations, for energy security and climate action reasons. Britain needs to send a clear message that we are ‘open for business’ post-referendum. And there is a strong need for greater policy and regulatory stability on energy and climate matters going forward. But none of these reasons require you to implement decisions inherited from the Cameron/Osborne government without proper consideration.

It is quite possible – indeed very sensible – to be pro-nuclear without supporting all forms of nuclear technology. The European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) is a complicated reactor design. Construction of EPRs in Finland and France is proving very problematic; construction in China seems to be going better, but is also taking longer than planned. You should consider whether the delays and difficulties are due to these being the first constructions of a new reactor design, or whether they are caused by the complexity of the EPR design. I recommend that you consult professor Wade Allison, Emeritus Professor of Physics at Keble College, Oxford. Wade strongly supports nuclear energy, but thinks that the complexity of the design means that an EPR will never be built on time or on budget.

You should also question whether it is consistent with national security to have Chinese state-owned companies involved in UK nuclear infrastructure. Given Nick Timothy’s comments on this (, I am very confident that you will.

If you decide against signing the Hinkley contract with EDF, I recommend that you accompany the announcement with two other statements to emphasise that nuclear energy has a future in the UK. First, a statement that a decision against Hinkley does not represent any change in the Government’s approach to nuclear more widely. You should highlight and welcome the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s plan to deliver decisions on the Generic Design Assessments for Wylfa and Moorside in 2017. Second, confirmation that the £250 million over five years for nuclear innovation, promised by George Osborne in last year’s Autumn Statement, will be delivered, and that the £30 million Small Modular Reactor competition will continue.

Nuclear energy should be an important part of a decarbonised energy system. But it will not be all of it. Continued expansion of installed renewable capacity is essential. Energy efficiency measures to replace the Green Deal are urgently required. And the Government should re-engage with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS).

George Osborne’s cancellation of the CCS competition was a serious error, undermining investor confidence and leaving the UK facing either higher costs or dependence on technology imports to reach the carbon budgets. The Committee on Climate Change has been clear about the importance of CCS. Restarting UK activity in this area would make financial sense, and also demonstrate that a decision against Hinkley did not represent any lessening of your commitment to decarbonisation.

Good luck.

Stephen Tindale




Hitachi-GE’s improvement on the Boiling Water Reactor has progressed to the final stage of the UKs regulatory process. The office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) announced the completion of Step 3 of the Generic Design Assessment on 30 October, with the whole assessment scheduled to finish in 2017.

Step three focuses on the safety and security of the ABWR and requires Hitachi GE to present arguments and evidence to support their safety and security claims. The assessment is designed to be extremely rigorous and continues to assess the safety of every aspect of the design throughout its process.

The fourth and final phase of the process includes a detailed assessment of the design as well is further scrutiny of the safety and security. The environmental impact of the reactor will also be assessed, with a consultation with the Environment Agency (EA) and National Resources Wales (NRW).

A completed Generic Design Assessment must be coupled with a nuclear site license and regulatory approval for the construction of the reactor before a new nuclear power station can be built. Horizon Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd, plans to build two ABWR is in the UK; in Wylfa Newydd on the Isle of Anglesey and Oldbury-on-Severn in South Gloucestershire.

This milestone in the regulatory process for an updated reactor design is a step in the right direction for building new and improved nuclear power reactors in the UK, and possibly paves the way for the next generation of advanced reactors to follow in the ABWR’s footsteps.

Hitachi purchase marks long march into UK’s nuclear energy Horizon

Posted by Laurence O'Hagan on October 30th, 2012

This week’s announcement by E.ON and RWE on Hitachi’s £700m purchase of UK’s Horizon Nuclear Power is an important development in Britain’s nuclear energy future:

Whilst the deal could prove pivotal in unblocking the stalled Horizon project, there are many challenges ahead to secure Britain’s nuclear energy future – not least of all the fact that ABWRs are yet to be granted UK safety approval.


The Guardian:


What price UK nuclear – and who’s to pay?

Posted by Laurence O'Hagan on October 7th, 2012

‘Pro nuclear’ energy minister, John Hayes, reviews underwriting cost risk of new plants – whilst “optimistic” about interest from China, despite stalled bid for Horizon

Bidding to build replacement nuclear reactors at Wylfa, Wales (above) and Oldbury-on-Severn has been subdued. Thorium, anyone?

This just in: Three white knights on their way to Britain to rescue a troubled, conventional nuclear project have turned around and gone home. The development raises the question – isn’t it time to consider something else?

The answer, of course, is “yes.” With the UK struggling to attract investors to build two new huge nuclear stations, the moment is more suited than ever to bring on alternative nuclear – technologies like thorium fuel and molten salt reactors that can operate safely and efficiently and help assuage post-Fukushima public sentiment against atomic power.

This all came to light overnight as the Financial Times reported that three large companies – all of which were expected to bid to take over Britain’s Horizon nuclear initiative – walked away, failing to submit anything by the Friday deadline.

An anticipated joint proposal by France’s Areva and China’s Guangdong Nuclear Power Group did not materialize, the FT said. Another Chinese company, State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. also dropped out. SNPTC was to have teamed with Westinghouse Electric, the U.S. nuclear company owned by Japan’s Toshiba.

The withdrawals left Horizon with just two bids – one by a GE Hitachi-led team also including Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin, and the other by Westinghouse, sans its Chinese partner.

Horizon is not bereft of bidders. It simply failed to attract a certain level of interest, despite the government’s proposed “Contracts for Difference” policy to guarantee long-term returns to utilities.


Thus, one wonders how competitive the efforts will be to build the two nuclear plants, abandoned earlier this year by Germany’s E.ON and RWE, the two utilities that are selling the project.

The two nuclear stations in Oldbury-on-Severn, England and Wylfa, Wales are an important part of the government’s nuclear ambitions. Together, using several reactors, they would provide about 6 gigawatts of generating capacity to the country by 2025, replacing old reactors in the same areas.

Horizon has “conventional” nuclear written all over it. Nothing suggests that bidders or the government have anything in mind at Oldbury or Wylfa other than uranium fuelled, water-cooled reactors, even if they are the improved, modern “passive cooling” versions.

As evidenced by the low bidding volume, interest is low in carrying on with convention.

Wouldn’t the UK be wise to declare Oldbury, Wylfa, or some place like them, as a testing ground for alternative nuclear?  If the big money isn’t rushing in to build the big plants based on the old ways, why not try something refreshing like, liquid thorium fuel in a molten salt cooled reactor? Start small – thorium molten salt reactors can be deployed in “modular” sizes of, say 200 megawatts, that would defer large upfront costs.

The benefits don’t stop there. Thorium MSRs can’t melt down, because they have failsafe freeze plugs that give way and allow fuel to drain safely away into tanks in the unlikely event of a problem. They operate at safe, normal atmospheric pressure, not at the highly pressurized levels of many conventional reactors. They function more efficiently than conventional reactors, in part because they can run safely at much higher temperatures. They leave less waste. To some debatable extent they also mitigate weapons proliferation risks (comments, please!).


As noted in a recent post here (below), a new report by the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) downplays thorium. It acknowledges the potential benefits, but points out that utilities simply won’t invest the money to develop technologies that optimize the fuel.

“Since the energy market is driven by private investment and with none of the utility companies investing or currently developing either thorium fuels or thorium fuelled reactor concepts, it is clear that there is little appetite or belief in the safety or performance claim,” DECC concluded.

Well, wake up and smell the spent fuel! Given the lacklustre bidding response at Horizon, you could equally say that investors have little taste for the performance of conventional nuclear.

So why not change? Why continue to bang one’s head against the same old reactor walls that line the fortresses of the status quo?

When I think of alternative versus conventional nuclear, comparisons to the world of new media and information technology automatically spring to mind.

I can’t help but recall how a guy named Jobs once implored the world to, in his words, “think different” and adopt a superior way of computing (replete with an Apple ad campaign picturing iconic individuals who transformed art, science and politics – clues in last paragraph).

It’s time for nuclear to do the same.

That’s enough from me for the moment. I’m going to go put on a MIles Davis record and flip through some old clippings of Martin Luther King’s great speech.

Photo: via Wikimedia

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